Vintage Bicycle Discussion Area
VINTAGE LIGHTWEIGHTS: 1970's Japanese Racer
Posted by J.T. on 7/30/2004 at 1:12:04 AM
I bought a race/road bike from a thrift store the other day. It has been repainted and I don't know who made the bike. It is a ten-speed with multiple Sun Tour components. It has a Shimano 333 Stem Shifter and Shimano 27" Wheels. The brakes, handle bars and front derailer are diacompe. There was foam padding on the handle bars but I replaced it with tape. When I removed the padding there were two inscriptions. On the left hand bar there was an ivy wreath. Inside the wreath it says "Japan Champion". On the right hand bar it says "KB". Anyone know wjo made the bike?
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RE:VINTAGE LIGHTWEIGHTS: 1970's Japanese Racer posted by JONathan on 7/30/2004 at 6:14:51 AM
Not too much to go on. Fins, gills and scales...what kind of fish is it? If you have names for the cranks, wheels (hubs and rims) and freewheel type and make, the field could be narrowed a bit. The higher quality Japanese imports from the '70's were: Fuji; Miyata; Nishiki; Univega (Nishiki); Centurion; Bridgestone; Panasonic; and a host of branded Schwinns. The assumption is US imports. Canada had several others. Sekine comes to mind.
Post a picture of the frame so the lug work and seat-stays are discernable. This can be matched up with known models for a good guess. The alloy "Champion" bars indicate a good quality bike. There were other quality rides, such as Kobe and Nakamura, etc., but these were fewer, at least from my experiences spotting VLW's. A serial number can be useful as gifferent makes had different number schemes and location on the frame.
Good luck, JONathan
Note: Sounds like a great commuter bike; the more generic looking the better, IMHO. Even lousy paint protects against rust.
S/N, please posted by John E on 7/30/2004 at 2:34:23 PM
In addition to more details on components and lug details, please post the serial number. Kawamura, Nishiki's framebuilder, punched S/Ns such as KS78091 (my 1971 American Eagle Semi-Pro) on the bottom of the BB shell.
The 333 indicates lower-end early 1970s Shimano components. I am guessing your bike weighs about 15kilos=33lbs. A lighter weight would indicate something better and/or newer.
RE:VINTAGE LIGHTWEIGHTS: 1970's Japanese Racer posted by J.T. on 7/30/2004 at 5:28:19 PM
The crankset has the same KB inscribed on it. The s/n is under the crankset, KS70120
RE:RE:VINTAGE LIGHTWEIGHTS: 1970's Japanese Racer posted by JONathan on 7/30/2004 at 8:05:51 PM
How about "Kabuki Bridegstone"? I have a Kabuki that is made by Bridegstone. One way to see is to check the lugs for magnetic response. They used Al lugs and thermal bonding, way ahead of the times. I would check mine for serial number, but it is second tier location. Another thing is to look for "integral derailer hanger" and check for forged dropouts. This would make it a keeper, for sure.
Unless it was a Schwinn "varsity" with its unique construction, the identification of the myriad look-alikes is tough without decals and/or stickers. Unless there is a specific serial number provenance. Have you given it the test ride? The better bikes ride better, so you could then narrow it down to maybe a dozen makes.
Good luck and happy rides,
Nishiki posted by J.T. on 7/30/2004 at 8:21:46 PM
Doing some of my own research I stumbled upon the Nishiki logo. The square with a stripe through it in the middle of the logo is inscribed next to the "Japan Champion" on the handle bars. It is also inscribed on the crankset nest to the "KB". Did Nishiki make a KB model?
Nishiki posted by J.T. on 7/30/2004 at 8:27:31 PM
Doing some of my own research I stumbled upon the Nishiki logo. The square with a stripe through it in the middle of the logo is inscribed next to the "Japan Champion" on the handle bars. It is also inscribed on the crankset nest to the "KB". Did Nishiki make a KB model? The bike rides great.
RE:RE:RE:VINTAGE LIGHTWEIGHTS: 1970's Japanese Racer posted by JONathan on 7/30/2004 at 8:36:23 PM
I meant; "Bridgestone"! What you have desribed has me looking back to the beginning. To avoid "barking up the wrong tree", so to speak, but not to add confusion, the conclusion that the bike is Japanese based on the components is a bit of a leap. I have, for example, a Raleigh (English) '77 "Gran Prix" with SunTour components and I believe Dia-Comp center-pulls, which were Weinmann clones. Seems that Dia-Compe obtained license to manufacture the venerable Weinmann "vainqueur"'s and other, I think. The Champion bars were ubiquitous on many makes. What are the cranks? My Ralieghs have branded cranks, so this could rule out the Raleigh.
It probably is Japanese, but one needs an open mind considering the whole of the possibles.
RE:RE:RE:RE:VINTAGE LIGHTWEIGHTS: 1970's Japanese Racer posted by JONathan on 7/30/2004 at 8:52:32 PM
Nishiki! Yes, that is a great find. I have an American Eagle three speed that is a Nishiki bike without the name. Later, they went to Nishiki as the Japanese model names became popular...and synonomous with high quality rides.
Nice work. I ride a Nishiki "Olympic" from the ;80's. Cro-moly frame and superb crfatsmanship. The ride very well, indeed. Check for forged dropouts. These look more rounded and they have a center ridge, sometimes with adjusting screw for axle alignment.
The integral derailer hanger is part of the dropout, as opposed to a detachable "ear" to hang the derailer. I would check inside the tubes for any rust build-up and, lacking any to speak of, I would fix that one up to ride all day long.
Check for a pretty full description of Nishki lineup here in the archives of "VLW discussion". You done good!
1970's Japanese Racer posted by John E on 7/30/2004 at 8:53:16 PM
The KSxxxxx serial number under the BB just about clinches it -- you have a Nishiki or American Eagle, built by Kawamura Bicycles (KB) of Japan. Various Shimano stem shifters were used on the low-end Custom Sport and Olympic models, which also sported cottered steel cranks. (Later Olys got cotterless aluminum Sugino Maxy cranks.) If your bike lacks quick release hubs, I vote it's a 1970 American Eagle Custom Sport.
RE: 1970's Japanese Racer posted by T-Mar on 7/31/2004 at 2:37:09 AM
Some questions for John E. Given the KB bars and KSXXXXX serial number, I agree that it is an American Eagle / Nishiki. However, given that they both your and JT's frames are KS numbers and JT's is sequentially lower, wouldn't it appear to be 1971 or earlier? Assuming that, wouldn't it be an American Eagle? Assuning the period and given the engraved bars and SunTour hanger, wouldn't that narrow it down to the Kokusai model? I'm just trying to apply your past enlightenment on the American Eagle / Nishiki brands.
1970 Japanese Racer posted by John E on 8/1/2004 at 9:25:35 PM
I bought my American Eagle Semi-Pro in March 1971, during a dock strike, so it was presumably built towards the end of 1970, probably as a 1971 model. At the time, Kawamura offered only two models in the U.S.: the American Eagle Custom Sport and the American Eagle Semi-Pro. The mid-level Olympic and Kokusai/International were introduced in late 1971 or perhaps early 1972. The Kokusai had a straight-gauge CrMo frame, aluminum rims, and aluminum Sugino Maxy crankset, with the Semi-Pro's SunTour VGT derailleur and half-step gearing (54-48 (originally 47 on the Semi-Pro) / 14-34). All but the Semi-Pro had stem-mounted shift levers. The Semi-Pro started with SunTour downtube shift levers, but migrated to barcons about the time it got chromed rear stays and long pointy lugs and was renamed the Nishiki Competition.
If JT's bike has cottered cranks, steel rims, and nutted axles, it's a Custom Sport, probably made in late 1969 or early 1970.
RE: 1970 Japanese Racer posted by T-Mar on 8/1/2004 at 11:57:32 PM
Thanks John E. I really didn't start following the line until 1973, by which time they were re-named Nishiki and had five models. I just thought it seemed out of place to have an engraved (alloy?)handlebar on the entry level Sport. Normally, at this period, an engraved bar would have been indicative of a mid range, or higher, model.
For your interest, I have some literature showing a 1972 model called the American Eagle Road Compe. The Road Compe has the bar end shifters and chromed stays you describe for the Competition, but the picture is not good enough to determine the lug style, though the head lugs appear to be chromed. I assume the Road Compe is the successor to the Semi-Pro and the predecessor to the Competition, as my 1973 literature indicates the Nishiki Competition as the equivalent model.
By the way, just to name the exception that proves the rule, I am the original owner of a 1977 Nishiki International with a CGxxxxx serial number. And yes, it does have the 'Made by Kawamura' decal on the chainstay. So, non-K serial numbers do exist for Kawamura made Nishiki.
Road Compe vs. Competition posted by John E on 8/2/2004 at 3:29:26 PM
Thanks for the post, T-Mar. In 1972, I was working at Bikecology when American Eagle introduced the Road Compe, which had much narrower gearing (54-44/14-16-18-21-24) than the Semi-Pro/Competition, an integral derailleur hanger, and, I believe, tubular tyres. With 27x1-1/4" gumwall tyres, Randonneur handlebars, and wide range gearing (54-47/14-18-22-27-34), the Semi-Pro and the early Competitions were aimed at the touring market.
There is probably enough cumulative knowledge in this forum to assemble a reasonably accurate Nishiki database, but I can help only in the early years.
Thanks also for the note regarding S/Ns. The KSxxxxx series evidently applies only to the late 1960s and early 1970s.
RE:Road Compe vs. Competition posted by T-Mar on 8/2/2004 at 8:14:44 PM
According to my literature, both the 1972 Road Compe and 1973 Competition had tubular tires. Unfortunately, as you know, much of the old literature is not very detailled and there is no info on the gearing. Also, the pictures aren't good enough to determine if there are integral derailleur hangers.
Your mention of a Nishiki database is appropriate. Nishiki comes up often enough on this site that I have been slowly going through by old catalogues, road tests, etc, and assembling a spreadsheet of Nishiki models. Right now, I've got data on about two dozen models, but I'm sure that I will easily double that figure by the time I've gone through all my literature.
As for the serial numbers, I've had success decrypting the serial numbers on other makes, notably Miyata. If Nishiki owners think this is worthwhile, I willing to try it for their brand. Just send me the serial number, year (if known), picture (if possible),and models of major components, along with the date code.
RE:Nishiki posted by Doug on 8/4/2004 at 5:21:16 PM
I picked up a Nishiki Prestige at a yard sale but can't find any info on it. It seems to be a fairly solid bike.
Anyone familiar with the Prestige model?
RE:RE:Nishiki posted by T-Mar on 8/5/2004 at 12:37:35 AM
Yes, I that model in my spreadsheet. Probably late 1980s. The 1987 model I have specs on indicates Tange Champion #2 main tubes with hi-tensile stays and a CrMo fork. SunTour Alpha 5000 derailleurs. Does this match?
RE:RE:RE:Nishiki posted by Doug on 8/5/2004 at 11:05:52 AM
Thanks, T-Mar, I appreciate your help. The frame is Tange #1 double butted. Shimano RX-100 brakes, derailleurs and crank. 4130 crmo fork. Sakae Custom handlebars. The paint is red with white tape on handlebars. It looks like the rims need to be trued and it didn't have a tire on front. Is this a basic department store model?